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Of course I was nervous before breakfast with Pierre Gagnaire. After all, he's one of the very best chefs in the world, who's known for deconstructing a dish so thoughtfully that it stretches out over five or eight courses. Gagnaire is in New York City for the StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress (which is the reason why you'll see some of the world's other great chefs wandering around the city for the next three days, from Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck in England to Grant Achatz of Chicago's Alinea). Gagnaire has built a small restaurant empire, with outposts from Paris to London and Seoul. Good news for me: His next restaurant, Twist, will be his first in the U.S., at the soon-to-open Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas. Over eggs benedict at Asiate, on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental in Manhattan, chef Gagnaire talked about his myriad influences, from the spontaneity of Jackson Pollock to an old man in Seoul practicing calligraphy to the French national soccer team. In fact, he talked about everything but food. He's the most zen chef I've ever met (and one of the best dressed; he knows exactly what Paul Smith blue shirt matches his eyes). I know I'll get to hear him talk about food at the StarChefs.com conference—including a Generational Discussion of Modern Cuisine—but for right now, I just want to think about him spending an afternoon at the Hopper collection at the Whitney Museum.
Gagnaire and F&W Editor-in-Chief Dana Cowin at Asiate